Robson connects with greypower
07 April 2005
Many in Grey Power are concerned about grandchildrens' future in NZ
Jim Anderton's Speeches
Progressive deputy leader Matt Robson has been touring the country speaking at Grey Power meetings and has really enjoyed them.
He tells me that, contrary to what he initially expected, many retired Kiwis want to talk not so much about their own immediate concerns but about their general concerns for the future well being of their grand children.
They want New Zealand to be a place where their grand children will be happy and prosperous in their own country, and in their own regions, with rewarding jobs, safe communities and not chased overseas in search of higher paying jobs or as refugees from the debt they incurred getting themselves educated.
The Progressive Party is campaigning in this year's election on a policy to cut graduates' debt in return for them committing to use their tertiary skills for New Zealand, by working in New Zealand.
Matt tells me he has also found a real meeting of the minds on the importance of job-creation, including the work that I am promoting inside Cabinet in regional and industry development.
Affordable banking services, provided by the New Zealand-owned Kiwibank which I championed, and a bank that is opening branches again around our regions instead of closing them like in the past when there was no Kiwibank, are also popular among Grey Power audiences.
Matt has also been encouraged by the strong support for the Progressive Party's tough line on the peddlers of dangerous drugs and the way we are prepared to adopt controversial policies – like our 2005 Policy to raise the drinking age back to twenty and our policy to promote stronger barriers against supplying alcohol to minors and our policy to promote stronger laws on alcohol advertising
I am here today in part to ask you to consider giving your party vote to my party, the Progressive Party, so that Matt and I can continue to advocate for these policies in the next coalition government.
For a strong anti-drugs government, for one that wants to better reward higher education, for a government that is proud to invest in New Zealand enterprise and our regions, the Progressive Party's candidates in this election will be seeking your party vote.
While there is much to be done to improve our country, the Progressive Party is also proud of what the Labour-Progressive coalition government has managed to achieve since 1999.
This is a confident time for New Zealand.
Our country is humming.
Not just economically – although that’s important.
We’re also taking giant strides socially, because the two go hand-in-hand.
The achievement by this government which I am most proud of is the unemployment figure.
Remember how stubborn unemployment was when Don Brash was in charge of the economy at the Reserve Bank?
Remember the effect on Northland?
A quarter of a million new jobs have been created since 1999.
Unemployment is at its lowest level in twenty years, and the lowest level of any country in the world.
The importance of that is that it gives us a unique opportunity.
We have the resources as a country to make a real difference to the well-being of superannuitants and other New Zealanders.
More jobs means more of a future in the regions for young people where they grow up.
jobs here in Northland.
People used to ask me ‘where are the jobs?’
Now they ask me ‘where are the skills?’
Even the crime rate is coming down.
Is it a coincidence that, when unemployment comes down, the crime rate falls?
Last year the crime rate fell 6.5 percent.
The police say it was one of the biggest falls on record; the biggest for at least thirty years.
The crime rate is 18 percent lower than it was at its peak in 1996.
You wouldn’t believe it when you read the papers, but that is the truth of what’s happening.
That means there were 20,997 less victims of crime nationally last year.
400 fewer victims a week weren’t attacked.
There is one area, however, where offending is going up – it was drug offences; up 2.9 per cent last year.
That’s why the Progressive Party is anti-drugs.
If you’re not anti-drugs, you’re not anti-crime.
I’m the Minister in charge of the coalition government's anti-drugs policy.
I’m supporting community youth drug centres to remove marijuana, starting in communities from the ground up.
The government is confronting the P epidemic.
We also need to challenge the most prevalent drugs in our community – alcohol.
That’s why I support putting the drinking age back up.
My colleague Matt Robson has a member’s bill in the ballot at Parliament.
It will admit that Parliament made a mistake when it reduced the drinking age a few years ago.
The evidence is in, and it hasn’t worked out.
So our Bill will put the age back up to twenty.
Drugs are one issue where it pays to be clear about your choice of coalition partner.
Progressive is totally opposed to drugs.
The next government will be anti-drugs if Progressive is in it.
We will work with Labour, and we will work to continue the direction New Zealand is going.
We are an insurance policy for Labour.
I’m acutely aware that there is one group that doesn’t participate as deeply when there are more jobs and incomes are beginning to rise.
That is all those on fixed incomes, including superannuitants.
For example, when the economy grows, we use more energy, and that pushes power prices up.
It’s been five years now since the level of superannuation was immediately increased by this government when it took office by twenty dollars a week.
It’s nearing time to look at the issue again.
I’m very aware that those on fixed incomes are not fully sharing in the recovery New Zealand is experiencing.
That’s not fair to people who can’t change their circumstances.
Recently I met with some Grey Power representatives in Wellington.
I offered them the services of one of my economic consultants to develop policies on incremental increases to superannuation.
I think that is a sign that we are fully committed to working closely with the retired community on the issues affecting you;
I can tell you we are taking a close look at the relationship between superannuation and the average wage and at relief from energy bills.
We’ll have a policy on that out before the election.
When we have more people in jobs, we’re paying out less in benefits and collecting more benefits.
That means the government has more room to move to look after those who can’t – or shouldn’t have to – move into work.
I know health care is major issue for Grey power members, especially the waiting lists and the cost of prescriptions.
If we could wave a magic wand, we would abolish prescription charges.
You’ll have to talk to our Labour coalition partners about that, or give us more muscle to talk to them.
But Progressive is developing a policy on hospital waiting lists and prescriptions which we’ll be releasing shortly.
It’s enough to say now we recognise the problem and we’re committed to making it a top priority in government.
Progressive has also had success in bringing down the cost of visiting the doctor for many, particularly young and elderly New Zealanders.
Doctors’ visits came down for many because we negotiated with Annette King.
We said we would support the health package she wanted, but we wanted to see progress on reducing doctors’ fees.
She agreed to reduce the cost of doctors’ visits for superannuitants and young New Zealanders.
To her credit, she kept her word.
Superannuitants are getting much cheaper visits to the doctor.
It’s a matter of principle, no one should be denied health care because they can’t afford to pay.
I want to mention two other areas that don’t affect Grey Power members directly, but that senior New Zealanders often speak to me about.
They are the burdens we are putting on young people.
In particular, I want to emphasise the issues of home ownership and the student debt levels.
In housing, we are proposing a scheme that allows families to do something many people in this room once did.
We want to allow families to capitalise their family support payments in order to pay the deposit on a new home.
The cost of home ownership is getting out of the reach of a lot of our struggling young families.
Yet home ownership has enormous beneficial effects.
So we have worked out a way to give those most in need a leg-up, and we’ll be pushing for progress in this area.
The other major issue affecting young people is the level of student debt.
In a few years, our young people will have a debt burden higher than the domestic national debt.
We need to keep our best and brightest here in New Zealand.
Progressive wants their debt repayments to be made by the government for the first three years after they graduate.
We have the opportunity now to make a real difference for young people.
I can give you an update on Kiwibank, while I’m here.
I know a lot of superannuitants bank with it.
When we created Kiwibank we promised it would have lower fees than the big overseas-owned banks were offering at the time.
It delivered – and that has benefited everyone, because all the other banks have had to respond.
For example, they offer free children’s accounts now; none of them did before Kiwibank them.
Remember how they told us bank branches had to be closed?
We found a way to open new branches of the People’s Bank
I don't know of one branch of an overseas-owned bank which has closed since Kiwibank opened.
Now Kiwibank is running at a profit.
It has three hundred thousand customers.
Over three hundred branches.
It has reached its profitability targets ahead of schedule.
It still has its critics.
But even the National party is saying it will keep the Kiwibank now – for three years any way!
So it must have been a good idea all along.
Maybe a few of our other ideas are worth a try as well?
The Kiwibank is not the only thing Progressive has accomplished.
It’s not even as important as our success in creating jobs.
But it shows we were right about potential for a New Zealand-owned financial institution.
It shows we were right to oppose asset sales.
And it shows we can make services in the regions of New Zealand profitable and secure.
The Progressive Party will be campaigning for the party vote in next year's election as a pro-growth and pro-jobs insurance policy.
We’ll be campaigning for better housing assistance, for reduced student debt levels, for shorter waiting lists.
We’ll be campaigning against drugs and for rising incomes for those on fixed incomes.
And we’ll be asking for your support to make those initiatives into reality.
If you want them, there is a sure way to achieve them.
We will continue to work constructively with Labour to achieve them.
They are our priorities.
Other parties have theirs.
If you agree with our priorities in government, the only way to achieve them is to put us in Parliament with sufficient strength to realise them.
I look forward to hearing your comments and questions about these and other issues we can further develop.